While social justice has advanced tremendously, racial equality remains far from perfect. In fact, former President Barack Obama claims that the country still faces “unfinished business of the civil rights movement”.  So in honor of Black History Month, this blog post highlights four African Americans who have positively contributed toward social progress in black communities in the United States. Considering the extensive list, we’ve narrowed our selection to include individuals relevant to CCM’s work in impact investing and the advancement of opportunities in low- and-moderate-income communities. We applaud the individuals below for their efforts in finding ways to address this “unfinished business”.
- Emmett D. Carson, Ph.D.
CEO, President, and founder of Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), the nation’s largest community foundation
Contribution: Carson is recognized as one of the most influential nonprofit leaders in the U.S. and has published more than 100 works on philanthropy, social justice, and African American giving. An international thought leader in the field of philanthropy, in 2006, he led the unprecedented merger of two community foundations, creating SVCF. With a growth in assets from $1.4 billion to over $8.1 billion, SVCF is the nation’s largest community foundation. Its 2000 family and corporate donor funds support a wide range of causes in the Bay Area, across the nation, and around the world.
- Michael J. Isimbabi, D.
Author of “Pooling Our Resource to Foster Black progress: An Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing Framework”
Field: Finance, Energy & Literature
Contribution: Isimbabi is a finance and energy industry professional, consultant, and author. His book informs readers on the resource-pooling initiatives addressing critical economic and social problems in the black community. Isimbabi discusses how these initiatives include empowering the strong culture of philanthropy in the black community, business development, impact investing, and job creation, all of which could lead to the alleviation of poverty in underserved communities.
- Tarell McCraney and Barry Jenkins –screenplay writers of “Moonlight”, the recently awarded Best Picture in drama at the Golden Globes
Contribution: Moonlight is a drama that looks at the struggles of a black American growing up in Liberty City, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Miami. The city is geographically small, “but it is also tiny in that particular way that poverty and extreme racial isolation build formidable, and virtually unscalable, walls.” Liberty City is almost entirely black and filled with public housing projects. Both McCraney and Jenkins grew up in Liberty City, with similar stories of childhood neglect, racism, and poverty. Moonlight tells the amazing story of their perseverance, intelligence, and sheer will. The inspiring film encourages discussion of low-income black communities where viewers see that community progress goes beyond infrastructure development; it is also about dismantling the multiple layers of injustices.
Having invested in bonds helping to finance community development initiatives in Liberty City, we were excited to see the acclaimed attention Moonlight has received nationwide. These inspiring individuals are only a sample of the many remarkable black Americans positively contributing to social progress in black communities. We are honored to spotlight them and their accomplishments. Although black history is formally celebrated only one month a year, we are optimistic about the positive advancements in predominantly black low-income communities that we see taking place in our field and will continue to report on them year-round.